The new Aston Martin Vanquish has made its world debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. With the £190,000 Vanquish — a brand-new ‘regular’ flagship, as opposed to the super-exclusive One-77 and Zagato V12 models — the company is preparing itself for a new era of model development while continuing to stress that evolution, not revolution, will always be its guiding philosophy.
A clear sign of evolution is the use of the Vanquish name for the new model, which is due to be launched in the summer with the first cars ready for delivery early next year. The original Vanquish, shown as a concept in 1998 and built between 2001 and 2007, was the first Aston to signal a move away from traditional construction methods.
This new edition introduces a much stiffer ‘Generation 4’ version of the adaptable ‘VH’ bonded aluminium monocoque chassis that arrived with the Aston Martin DB9 in 2003. It also introduces a completely re-engineered version of Aston’s 6.0-litre V12 engine, with variable valve timing, new heads, bigger inlet valves and throttle bodies, and new manifolds that boost power and torque. Most importantly, the revised engine meets forthcoming US clean-air legislation.
For the first time in a series-production Aston, the outer panels are all formed in carbonfibre. The body design presents a fresh face because of the influence of the £1.2 million One-77, and is the culmination of a three-year project led by Miles Nurnberger, Aston’s chief exterior designer.
Nurnberger acknowledges the car’s use of “simple” existing Aston cues (low nose, ‘moustache’ grille, steeply raked screen, exaggerated rear haunches), but describes the car as “more deeply sculpted” than previous Astons. The car sits on a skirt of exposed carbonfibre in reference to its all-carbonfibre body construction. It features an integral rear wing specifically designed to look — on the orders of Aston chief Ulrich Bez — as if it was impossible to make.
Nurnberger says that the extra sculpting and radically waisted shape of the Vanquish’s 2+2 body will make the car look quite different from existing Astons on the road, although it takes care to maintain the marque’s fundamental character. “An Aston always wears a suit,” he says. “It is assertive, not aggressive; powerful but polite.”
Inside, the Vanquish gets an all-new cockpit design, still with a prominent centre stack, but with a suite of new hardware, including lighter and smaller screen, ventilation and hi-fi controls. The DB9’s allegedly jewel-like instruments, seen in most Astons since 2003, get a new, quieter and more technical-looking set of analogue dials, which are much clearer to read. The fascia ‘volumes’ have been reduced and moved 20mm away from occupants to give more room and a feeling of airiness without losing the tailored feel. Aston is keen to keep the bespoke nature of its trim, with hand-stitching, rich colours and classy materials, but beyond that the list of possible variations is almost limitless.
The Vanquish sits on an identical 2740mm wheelbase to the DB9 (which continues as core model) and the DBS it replaces, but is “a shade” wider, longer and taller than both models. However, stung by suggestions that it keeps using a 10-year-old chassis, Aston engineers point out that in this first ‘Gen 4’ iteration, the new VH structure is 30 per cent stiffer than a DBS, thanks mostly to a new design of engine brace. The Gen 4 VH structure also uses improved anodising and bonding techniques, makes greater use than ever before of structural carbonfibre and features a boot space fully 60 per cent larger than that of a DBS (and 10 per cent bigger than a Bentley Continental’ coupé’s).
Despite its expanding list of gadgets and safety equipment, the Vanquish also offers useful weight saving. At 1739kg ready to go, it is fully 56kg lighter than the DBS it replaces.
The V12 engine is mounted 19mm lower in the chassis to provide greater bonnet ‘crush’ clearance in impacts with pedestrians, but the move also lowers the car’s centre of gravity by a useful 10mm.
The engine gets a whole suite of improvements, but most significant is its adoption of double variable valve timing. As well as greatly boosting peak power and torque, this delivers to the driver an extra 30lb ft of torque right through the range, from just above idle.
The latest output figures are 565bhp (up from 510bhp) delivered at 6750rpm, and 457lb ft at 5500rpm. Drive flows to the rear wheels via a carbonfibre tailshaft (and through an alloy torque tube) to the latest version of ZF’s six-speed torque-converter automatic, which is mounted in-unit with the differential and is capable of shifting 30 per cent faster than previous iterations. The reason for using a ‘full’ automatic, rather than the automated manual of racier Astons, say engineers, is because the Vanquish will primarily be a grand tourer.
A new NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) ‘blanket’ for the front bulkhead is employed for the same reason, and the car also has its own engine note ‘tune’, provided by a new, smaller silencer mounted under the boot floor. Aston says that it isn’t interested in winning a power race with rivals, but nevertheless predicts a healthy top speed of 183mph, with acceleration from zero to 62mph in just 4.1sec.
To match the performance, the suspension consists of forged double wishbones all round and gets adaptive dampers, plus the latest-generation chassis stability system and traction control, which is adjustable in three modes. The speed-sensitive hydraulic power assistance for the rack and pinion steering adopts the 15:1 ratio first used in the four-door Rapide, rather than the 17:1 familiar from other two-door models, to make the car feel more nimble. Effort varies according to chassis setting, with a sportier setting offering more rim effort and stiffer ride rates. Carbon-ceramic brakes are used to reduce noise and improve retardation by five per cent.
Aston is reluctant to talk about how the new Vanquish affects the company’s future, but it obviously leads a new generation. It is also clear that the One-77 will lead the styling of the next generation of models, and the thoroughness of the V12’s re-engineering means that Aston bosses see years of life in that, too. The challenge inside Gaydon, as ever, will be to keep the cars modern without altering course.